Blood+ Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Release Date: Thursday, February 28, 2008
Writer/Artist:Asuka Katsura (Original Story: Production I.G. + Aniplex)
Translated by:Camella Nieh
What They Say
Set several decades after the events in the popular Blood: The Last Vampire anime film, an amnesiac Saya Otonashi lives as a seemingly normal high school student with her adoptive family in Okinawa. Horrible nightmares are the only hints at the violent life she once led, but her past is about to catch up with her and awaken the merciless warrior within. Chiropterans--powerful shape-changing creatures who need and crave blood-threaten humanity once more, and a mysterious organization called the Red Shield needs Saya's deadly sword skills and mysterious powers to aid in the fight against these beasts. As her submerged abilities begin to reawaken and as she seeks to regain her memories, Chiropteran warriors are guided by a mysterious leader to threaten Saya and her loved ones. Asuka Katsura's manga series successfully expands upon the original Production I.G/Aniplex feature, delivering moments of jarring violence and thrilling action in a tale that spans several centuries.
Dark, shadowy monsters hunt a pseudo vampire-girl trying to make a normal life for herself. But when push comes to shove, the vampire-girl can stand up for herself and her family.
Dark Horse did a solid job on the packaging of this first volume of BLOOD+. The front cover depicts Saya brandishing her stylized katana while Hagi watchfully stands behind her. The cover wraps around to the back where four other major characters stand behind Hagi. The covers white background helps the otherwise drably colored characters stand out. The interesting aspect to Katsura's cover is the angle of the horizon. If you open the book to admire both sides of the cover, you realize the picture lies diagonally across the book. It's a nice touch. The first four pages of the book are in color and the two-page spread mimics the book's cover. Only in this picture Saya's facial expression is much more serious and Hagi has turned his back on Saya. Foreshadowing perhaps?
Production values for the remainder of the book remain high. Every page is correctly centered with solid printing. Extras include the aforementioned color pages, character descriptions for Saya and Hagi, 4-koma comics of the characters, a congratulation letter to Katsura from the anime's character designer, and a preview of the upcoming Dark Horse release of the BLOOD+ novel.
Saya lives an emotional rollercoaster through this first volume and her facial expressions are just as varied. I'm impressed with Katsura's ability to draw such a wide range for Saya. It fits her character perfectly. The flipside of Saya is Kai's character, as his emotions rarely fluctuate, so neither does his facial expressions. Katsura's style appears rough with scratchy lines, and this compliments the high energy of Saya's character and the story's action scenes. Another good aspect to the scratchy artwork is how well it works with the depictions of the Chiropterans. The extra rough drawings and heavily shaded scenes of the Chiropterans lend a horror movie sensation to the book by never truly showing a highly detailed monster (in the light of day). Fight scenes are dynamic and powerful, despite the occasions when I thought Katsura's perspective was a little off. Backgrounds are mostly present with a fair amount of detail and there are many one and two-page spreads. I can't really comment on the character design itself since Production I.G. originally laid the groundwork.
The translation reads quite well and English SFX is aligned with the original Japanese SFX. The book lacks a Translators Notes section, but instead includes comments throughout the story. Sign translations and explanations of Japanese terminology is placed in the gutters. I can't say I prefer this method over a Translator Notes section, or vice versa. I enjoy reading the explanation right there in the midst of the story, however I also enjoy the longer descriptions a Translator Notes section provides.
Contents: (Caution ahead! Spoilers may jump out at anytime)
Many stories seem to start out with the 'he/she was only a normal kid until . . .' storyline. Not BLOOD+. Saya is anything but a normal high school girl living in Okinawa. She is living with an adoptive family consisting of older and younger brothers and a father, and she doesn't remember anything about her life past one year. After a whole year, nothing has jarred her memory and no one has come forward to claim her as a blood relative. Strange, indecipherable dreams are the only link Saya has to her past.
Saya behaves much as I would expect a girl her age and in her situation. She is hyper and tries to be upbeat, but her attempt at living a normal life constantly collides with the strangeness of having amnesia. Classes, sports, school rivalries and homework contribute the usual stresses of high school. All this combines to make her very emotional. Things only get worse when she stumbles upon a strange man playing a cello. The memory that Saya knows this man hits her like a thunderbolt. Only she can't remember how or why she would know him.
Behind the scenes, the story peeks into the strange inner workings of a Dracula-looking young man and the U.S. military as they search for someone. Are they searching for Saya, or maybe the cello player? Things get even more complicated when we learn Saya's adoptive father seems to be raising her for some kind of secret organization known as Red Shield.
Just as the reader begins to question where all this is going, the first Chiropteran slithers out of nights inky blackness. The blood-sucking beast is just as vicious and powerful as I remember from the Blood anime. Before the Chiropteran has a chance to rip Saya and her older brother, Kai, to bits, the cello player appears. He claims to be Saya's follower, named Hagi, and he offers her a stylized katana. None of this rings any bells for Saya, so Hagi forces her to drink his blood. This not only awakens Saya's memories, it also sends her into a single-minded rampage against the Chiropteran.
From here, Saya both gains and loses everything she ever wanted. She regains some of her memory and learns what her path is in this world. Unfortunately, her future can't include the one thing she has been trying to hold onto for the last year, her family. Being a threat to Kai and the others, will she turn her back on the only people that care for her?
The original Blood anime version of Saya made a cool character; brooding, badass, and no-nonsense. However, I really like this version of Saya; unsure of herself, emotional, and vulnerable. I would much rather read about an extended BLOOD+ Saya as she has so much more room for character development. Along those lines, her relationship with her older adoptive brother, Kai, has multiple directions it could go. Kai himself is interesting because despite his seemingly even-keeled view of life, losing the ability to play baseball due to injury has forced his personality into a different direction than it probably would have gone otherwise. A troublemaking brooding character, he seems to have taken on characteristics of Saya's character from the original Blood anime.
After writing this review I watched the first five episodes of the BLOOD+ anime. Comparing the two quickly discovers the manga adaptation is somewhat darker (scarier looking Chiropterans) and more violent (Saya's forceful 'awakening' to the truth). After those aspects, the manga really travels a different path between points when compared with the anime. So if you are someone that likes reading manga with plenty of differences from the anime version of a series, than you should really enjoy the manga adaptation of BLOOD+. If after reading this review you are still not sold, then you can read a preview at the Dark Horse website.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Right to Left